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Why nonsense so often escapes being detected.

vice, one Athanasius Kircher made great improvements in the last century. He boasted, that by means of a coffer of arts, divided into a number of small receptacles, entirely of his own contriving, a thousand prodigies might be performed, which either could not be effected at all, by Lully's magical circles, or at least not so expeditiously.

NOTHING can more fully prove, that the fruit of all such contrivances was mere words without knowledge, an empty show of science without the reality, than the ostentatious and absurd way in which the inventors, and their votaries, talk of these inventions, They would have us believe, that in these is contained a complete encyclopedia, that here we may discover all the arts and sciences as in their source, that hence all of them may be deduced a priori, as from their principles. Accordingly they treat all those as no better than quacks and empirics who have recourse to so homely a tutoress as experience.

The consideration of their pretensions hath indeed satisfied me, that the ridicule thrown on projectors of this kind, in the account given by Swift * of a professor in the academy of Lagado, is not excessive, as I once thought it. The boasts of the accademist on the prodigies performed by his frame, are far less

* Gulliver's Travells, Part iü.

Sect. II.

The application of the preceding principles.

extravagant than those of the above mentioned artists, which in truth they very much resemble *.

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* At what an amazing pitch of perfection doth Knittelius, a great admirer both of Lully and of Kircher, suppose that the a. depts in this literary handicraft may arrive. The assiduous and careful practice will, at length, according to him, fully instruct

“ Quomodo de quacunque re proposita statim librum concipere, “ et in capita dividere, de quacunque re ex tempore disserere, ar“gumentari, de quocunque themate orationem formare, orationem “ mentalem per horam, dies et septimanas protrahere, rem quam.

cunque describere, per apologos et fabulas proponere, emblema"ta et hieroglyphica invenire, de quacunque re historias expeditè “ scribere, adversaria de quacunque re facere, de quacunque mate“ ria consilia dare, omnes argutias ad unam regulam, reducere, as

sumptum thema in infinitum multiplicare, ex falso rem demons“trare, quidlibet per quidlibet probare, possimus." Quirinus Kuhl. mannus, another philosopher of the last century, in a letter to Kircher, hath said with much good sense, concerning his coffer, “ Lusus est ingeniosus, ingeniose Kirchere, non methodus, prima “ fronte aliquid promittens, in recessu nihil solvens. Sine cista " enim puer nihil potest respondere, et in cista nihil præter verba “ habet; tot profert quot audit, sine intellectu, ad instar psittaci; " et de illo jure dicitur quod Lacon de philomela, Voc est, prætere

aque nibil." Could any body imagine, that one who thought so justly of Kircher's device, was himself the author of another of the same kind. He had, it seems, contrived a scientific machine, that moved by wheels, with the conception of which he pretended to have been inspired by heaven, but unfortunately he did not live to publish it. His only view, therefore, in the words above quoted, was to depreciate Kircher's engine, that he might the more effectually recommend his own. “ Multa passim,” says Morhoff concerning him (Polyhistor. vol. 1, lib. i. cap. 5.) “ de rotis suis 5 combinatoriis jactat, quibus ordinatis unus homo millies mille, “ imo millies millies mille, scribas vincat; qui tamen primarius ro.

Why nonsense so often escapes being detected.

So much for the third and last cause of illusion that was taken notice of, arising from the abuse of


tarum scopus non est, sed grandior longè restat : nempe notitia

providentiæ æternæ, orbisque terrarum motus." And again, " Nec ullus hominum tam insulso judicio præditus est, qui hac in“stitutione libros doctos, novos, utiles, omni rerum scientia plenos, “ levissima opera edere non potest.” How much more modest is the professor of Lagado : “ He flatters himself, indeed, that a more • noble exalted thought than his never sprang

in any

other man's head,” but doth not lay claim to inspiration.

66 Every one 6 knows," he adds, “ how laborious the usual method is of attain"ing to arts and sciences : whereas, by his contrivance, the most “ ignorant person, at a reasonable charge, and with a little bodily “ labour, may write books in philosophy, poetry, politics, law, ma

thematics, and theology," (no mention of history) “ without the “ least assistance from genius and study."

He is still modest enough to require time, and some corporal exercise, in order to the composing of a treatise; but those artists propose to bring a proficient “ statim librum concipere," instantly, “ levissima opera," with little or no pains. I shall conclude with laying before the reader the opinion of Lord Verulam, concerning the Lullian art, an opinion that may, with equal justice, be applied to the devices of all Lully's followers and imitators. Neque tamen illud præ“ termittendum, quod nonnulli viri magis tumidi quam docti insu“ darunt circa methodum quandam, legitimæ methodi nomine haud “ dignam, cum potius sit methodus imposturæ, quæ tamen quibus“ dam ardelionibus acceptissima procul dubio fuerit. Hæc metho“ dus ita scientiæ alicujus guttulas aspergit, ut quis sciolus specie “ nonnulla eruditionis ad ostentationem possit abuti. Talis fuit

ars Lullii, talis typocosmia a nonnullis exarata; quæ nihil aliud fuerunt, quam

vocabulorum artis cujusque massa et acervus; aď hoc, ut qui voces artis habeant in promptu, etiam artes ipsas per“ didicisse existimentur. Hujus generis collectanea officinam refe“ runt veteramentariam, ubi præsegmina multa reperiuntur, sed ni

The extensive usefulness of perspicuity.

very general and abstract terms, which is the principal source of all the nonsense that hath been invented by metaphysicians, mystagogues, and theologians.


The extensive usefulness of Perspicuity.


SECT. I.....When is obscurity apposite, if ever it be

apposite, and what kind ?

HAVING fully considered the nature of perspicuity, and the various ways in which the laws relating to it may be transgressed, I shall now inquire, whether to be able to transgress with dexterity in any of those ways, by speaking obscurely, ambiguously, or unintelligibly, be not as essential to the perfections of eloquence, as to be able to speak perspicuously?

ELOQUENCE, it may be said, hath been defined to be, that art or talent whereby the discourse is adapt

“ hil quod alicujus sit pretii.” De Augm. Scien. lib. vi. cap. 2. I shall only observe, that when he calls this art a method of imposture, he appears to mean that it puts an imposition upon the mind,

, not so much by infusing error instead of truth, as by amusing us with mere words instead of useful knowledge.

The extensive usefulness of perspicuity.

ed to produce the effect which the speaker intends it should produce in the hearer *. May not then obscurity, on some occasions, be as conducive to the effect intended, as perspicuity is on other occasions ? If the latter is necessary in order to inform, is not the former necessary in order to deceive? If perspicuity be expedient in convincing us of truth, and persuad. ing us to do right, is not its contrary, obscurity, expedient in effecting the contrary ; that is, in convincing us of what is false, and in persuading us to do wrong? And may not either of these effects be the aim of the speaker ?

This way of arguing is far more plausible than just. To be obscure, or even unintelligible, may, I acknowledge, in some cases, contribute to the design of the orator, yet it doth not follow, that obscurity is as essential to eloquence as the opposite quality. It is the design of the medical art to give health and ease to the patient, not pain and sickness, and that the latter are sometimes the foreseen effects of the medicines employed, doth not invalidate the general truth. Whatever be the real intention of a speaker or writer, whether to satisfy our reason of what is true or of what is untrue, whether to incline our will to what is right or to what is wrong, still he must propose to effect his design, by informing our understanding : nay more, without conveying to our minds some in

* Book I. Chap. I.

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